Ukrainian refugees in Poland (© Gabriel Pietka)

Poland: "How to have God in our home"

Celina has just retired and has now come to understand why she studied Russian so many years ago. Anna and her husband have also opened their home to five strangers thanks to whom she has rediscovered the value of her time and savings....

I retired in March. I used to wonder what I would do when that time came, but life has taught me not to worry about it too much. As one of our proverbs says, "Don't worry about the future, because God is already there."
Circumstances are not up to us, they are given to us. We must embrace them. Could we have expected that after these terrible years of pandemic, war would reach our borders? I asked myself what I could do in this situation and I began to surf the web, searching for all the information related to Ukraine. But, in order to touch the real dimensions of suffering, I wanted to go to the station. Seeing the exhausted and hungry people, who often have lost everything they own, made me realize that the first thing we can give them is a piece of our heart. For me and my family it was something normal to offer them a place in our home. We didn't question for how long it would be, if we were able to do it, if they were all vaccinated or not... Our family grew by two people: a grandmother with her thirteen-year-old grandson. When we were young, over thirty years ago, we were made to study Russian. Back then we wondered why, and now we realize that the language is useful to communicate with Ukrainians. When I retired, one of my dreams was to brush up on languages, but I really didn't expect that I would learn Ukrainian as well. And so, all in all, we belong to the Lord. Our hope lies in Him.
Celina, Krakow, Poland

Our world is no longer safe, stable, predictable. Faced with the outbreak of violence, my first instinct was to pray. But not as a gesture of pity, but as an opportunity to relate to the ontological foundation of the world, of history and of every human being. I prayed thus: "I believe in one God, the Almighty Father, Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible." These words immediately restored my peace: He is the Lord of everything, life and death belong to Him, no man is a pawn on the chessboard of the powerful. Every moment has meaning in the relationship with Him. This certainty is greater than fear, even in the recurring nightmares of a nuclear explosion.
When I'm in front of my students I hear them wondering why they should study financial analysis when there is an ongoing war. I now start every class with this question so that they too know that we all ask a similar questions. And I shared with them the certainty that this moment is not just a "test", but an opportunity to become more human. To deepen our questions and find the answers.
I am discovering that reality, as it is, is my calling. People's needs are enormous and radical. Many welcome refugees into their homes, but many also say they are afraid. Faced with this challenge, the lyrics of the song Lasciati fare [Let yourself be made] by Claudio Chieffo came to mind. The certainty of Christ's love for me is greater than fear. So when they called me to tell me that they needed someone to host a family of five for a few days, my husband and I agreed, even though we didn't know who would come. Our greatest wish was to welcome them as brothers and sisters. In Poland we have this proverb: "Having a guest at home is like having God at home." I prepared beds, a bathroom, towels, meals for them, wanting them to feel like they were treated as beloved friends. We spent five days together with Sasha, Lyudmila, Tamara, Ksenia and little Ivan, then they moved into an apartment given to them free of charge. During these days with them I discovered that every person is first of all a good and a gift. I understood that this extraordinary time is a time of true grace for me. I rediscovered the value of my time, which is not only for work but is available to the Lord who might ask me to wait for the doctor with Sasha or wash sheets. I have rediscovered the value of my savings. Now that they can help someone who is homeless and hungry, they are worth a hundred times more. The relationship with our new friends didn't end there. Our friendship began under tragic circumstances, but I know it will last a lifetime, even when peace finally comes. Even though peace has already come for me, I await for tomorrow to come asking Jesus to allow me to do His will.
Anna, Krakow, Poland